Friday, September 18, 2015

Sunshine Sketches and Murky Militant Dealings

In 1912, the newspapers warned of an imminent invasion of militant suffragettes to Canada. So Prime Minister Borden banned them from coming. They came anyway.

I see that Carrie Mulligan has come out with a critic of Hollywood Sexism as her movie Suffragette is about to appear.

How did a very sympathetic profile of Mrs. Pankhurst's "First Lieutenant" Annie Kenney, get into a publication aimed at the social elite of Montreal in May, 1913 at the height of the militant movement in England?



Well, if you've been reading my blog, you already know.

Frances Fenwick Williams, Press Secretary of the newly hatched Montreal Suffrage Association, was a columnist in the paper, the only columnist.

The paper was edited by Edward Beck of the Montreal Herald. His one and only goal was to take down "corrupt" Montreal City Hall and if he had to align himself with the militant suffragettes, that was OK.

FFW had been to England the year before and visited with the militants and members of a group of women authors who supported suffrage. She didn't tell anyone until much later :)

This short-lived Montreal tabloid, the Saturday Mirror,  reported regularly on the militants. Frances Fenwick Williams also supported Mrs. Pankhurst in her column, The Feminist.

That's funny, because the Montreal Suffrage Association at launch in March 1913, promised to be 'sane' and 'reasonable' and 'to go about a quiet education of the people.' Their executive was stacked with clergymen who simply detested the militant suffragettes.

One clergyman said at the inaugural meeting that "It would be better if the suffragettes starved to death in jail."

Years ago, when I wanted to learn about Annie Kenney for my book Furies Cross the Mersey, about the British Invasion of Militants to Montreal in 1912/13, I had to schlep over to the McGill Library and read Annie Kenney's 1930's autobiography.

This Iconic Image of Christabel Pankhurst and Annie Kenney is all over the Internet.
Lyndsey Jenkins, Oxford author of a recent bio of Lady Constance Lytton is working on a bio of the entire Kenney Family.

I wanted to see if she mentioned her sisters, Nell and Caroline, who were living in Montreal *St Lambert in 1913.

She didn't.

This Sara Moore bio-item  mentions that Annie's eldest sister, Nell, is a suffragette, but does not say she came to Montreal in 1910 and married Frank Randall Clarke, a reporter.

Clarke, apparently had saved her from the police at a meeting in England. Love at First Sight. Read this post.

Now, in this issue of the Saturday Mirror, there's an article by Stephen Leacock, McGill economist and author of the iconic Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town. That's no coincidence. Edward Beck first published Leacock's stories in one of his newspapers.

(Leacock often presided over debates at McGilll on the subject of Women's Suffrage. In 1919, he came out in the Montreal newspapers angrily against Temperance.)

This, though, is a humour piece.

Here's a bit from Sara Moore article. Moore was a young American journalist.

(Right now, I am working on a second book about the suffragists, Service and Disservice, about the 1917 Conscription Crisis.)


Annie Kenney, the most interesting figure in the militant ranks was arrested shortly after I interviewed her.

As head of the Women's Social and Political Union work with the disablement of the entire Pankhurst family,Miss Kenney had been addressing a meeting of several thousand women gathered at the London Pavilion.

Her address was due to the inciting trend of her public utterances,and partly to the government's determination to destabilize the WSPU work by removing their leaders..

Annie Kenney, with Christabel Pankhurst set the fashion for going to jail for 'principle's' sake in 1905.
.....

Miss Kenney's history, as well as her fiery enthusiasm, makes her a drawing card at meetings. She was born at Lees,in a cotton mill community where men, women and children worked hard for enough for a mere existence.

When the Oldham plant went bankrupt and the members were thrown out of employment, Kenney was taught the bitterness of the helpless labourer.

Through her unusual abilities, she finally forced an entrance into other factories,where she found that women, being unorganized and in an overcrowded labour market, were being mercilessly exploited.